avoid these 8 beginning gardening mistakes
How to plant (and keep) a great flower garden.
Don’t ignore your environment.
Location, location, location! Just like real estate, success in your garden comes down to where you are—especially what kind of sun you get. Don’t fall for a flower that won’t thrive where it's planted or a garden design that won’t work where you live.
Do: Research sunlight.
Make a little map or drawing that shows where you get shade and sun and bring it with you to the garden center. When you’re there, look for plants that thrive in your sun conditions. Employees may have ideas for tricky locations.
Decoding Sun Requirement Labels:
Amount of Sunlight
What It Means
At least 6 full hours of direct sunlight
3-6 hours of sun each day (preferably morning and early afternoon)
3-6 hours of sun each day (with some mid-day protection from trees or other source of shade)
Less than 3 hours of direct sunlight each day (with filtered sunlight during the rest of the day)
Don’t plant all annuals.
Annuals look great right out of the pot, so it’s tempting to plant them for quick rewards. But the very next year you’ll be starting your garden from scratch again. Invest time and money in perennials and the return will be year after year of robust flowers.
Do: Have patience.
Those new perennials will look pretty thin the first year. But, in the years to come, you’ll get results you won’t believe. Pick perennials that bloom at different times so you’ll have color all season long.
Don’t forget your soil.
Soil is the foundation of your whole garden. Don’t plant until you know what kind you have and how to make it better. Any soil can be improved with a little support. Learn the tricks of good compost and feed the ground you’ve got.
Do: Check the soil.
Determine whether your soil is sandy or loamy or full of clay. Compost improves sandy soil. Wood chips or lawn clippings can be added for loamy soil (rich, crumbly soil that’s relatively equal parts sand and silt with a somewhat smaller proportion of clay). Soil with a lot of clay needs added organic material or the use of raised beds.
Don’t mistake compost for manure.
Compost is organic matter that has broken down enough to enrich the soil—veggie scraps, yard waste, or clippings. Fertilizer is made from manure, animal waste, or commercial products that provide nitrogen.
Do: Pick the right food for your soil.
Both compost and fertilizer have nutrients but plants have preferences about what they eat! If your soil needs nitrogen, fertilizer is the thing. Overworked soil with unbalanced moisture needs compost. Find out what’s best and feed from the roots up.
Don’t spend too much money.
Though going crazy at the garden store is fun, it adds up fast. You can get the great results if you rely on careful planning and help from friends and neighbors.
Do: Be thrifty.
Use homemade compost from a backyard bin. Developers may have clean topsoil or drainage rocks to give away. Other gardeners will need to hand out divided hostas and trumpet vine. Someday, you can do the same! Start seed sharing to spread the gardening joy.
Don’t plant invasive species.
Some plants at the garden center are invasive species. Usually these aren’t native to your region, and in the right conditions they can take over your garden and choke out your favorites.
Do: Control creepers.
Invasive plants like artemisia, mint, morning glories, kudzu, and buckthorn can take over any garden. If you do plant them as quick-growing cover, keep on top of them by regularly weeding, trimming, and deadheading.
Don’t go to war with bugs.
Mosquitoes can be more than just annoying—they can be downright dangerous for humans. That’s why you should consider using OFF!® repellent
on your skin to help repel mosquitoes that can carry West Nile virus while working in your garden, especially at dawn and dusk. That said, many garden bugs are beneficial, and our plants need them. Bees and spiders do important work in the garden, pollinating and hunting pests.
Do: Encourage helpers.
Plant a pollinator garden to encourage beneficial insects like butterflies and native bees with milkweed, columbine, black and white sages, yucca, yarrow, sunflower, and lupine. Make mason bee houses and include water features and windbreaks to keep helpful, beneficial bees in your garden.
Don’t battle your wildlife.
Wild animals look at your garden as a free meal! Squirrels, deer, and rabbits can wreak havoc on your plants, but beneficial animals like songbirds and bats will avoid your garden without an invitation. You can learn how to manage wildlife with some small adjustments.
Do: Invite good guests.
Daffodil bulbs are toxic to squirrels, and they hate the taste of alliums, marigolds, and hyacinths. Rabbits and deer avoid the smell of bone meal or cayenne pepper on the soil. Bats will eat garden pests and mosquitoes, so put a bat house in your garden to bring them swooping in. Songbirds bring gardens color, bug control, and song, so plant ornamental fruit trees, grasses, or cacti to attract them.